Federal regulators propose new limits on food products and marketing

 

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



 WASHINGTON, April 29 - An Interagency working group representing four federal agencies is proposing sweeping new guidelines designed to encourage food companies to change the way they market a vast array of food products to children. Noting that one in three children is overweight or obese, the group's guidelines would put pressure on the food industry to significantly change their marketing tactics by 2016.  

“Children are strongly influenced by the foods they see advertised on television and elsewhere. Creating a food marketing environment that supports, rather than undermines, the efforts of parents to encourage healthy eating among children will have a significant impact on reducing the nation's childhood obesity epidemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “These new Principles will help food and beverage companies use their creativity and resources to strengthen parents' efforts to encourage their children to make healthy choices.” 

Led by former Sen. Sam Brownback and Sen. Tom Harkin, Congress directed the Federal Trade Commission, together with the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to establish an Interagency Working Group of federal nutrition, health, and marketing experts to develop recommendations for the nutritional quality of food marketed to children and adolescents, ages 2 to 17. The working group proposal will be open for 45 days of public comment on the proposed voluntary nutrition and marketing principles it has developed. After public comment, the working group will make final recommendations in a report to Congress.  

Globally Positioned Agriculture

The working group proposal sets out two basic nutrition principles for foods marketed to children. Advertising and marketing should encourage children to choose foods that make meaningful contributions to a healthful diet from food groups including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat and poultry, eggs, nuts or seeds, and beans.  

In addition, the saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium in foods marketed to children should be limited to minimize the negative impact on children's health and weight. The working group proposes that industry strive to market foods by the year 2016 that meet the proposed nutritional principles and marketing criteria. For sodium, the proposal includes interim targets for 2016 and final targets for 2021.

 The sugar requirement would limit cereals to eight grams of added sugar a serving - far less than many cereals. New sodium guidelines will also be a challenge for many food companies to meet, compared to current products. During an initial phase-in period, the guidelines call for many foods to have no more than 210 milligrams of sodium a serving, while main dishes and meals, including both restaurant food and packaged food, could have no more than 450 milligrams.  

Copies of the principles are available from the FTC's website at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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